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January is Glaucoma Awareness Month

Did you know that glaucoma is the second-leading cause of blindness in the United States?

It is certainly worthy to be a topic of interest for the month of January.

Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that lead to progressive damage of the optic nerve. The optic nerve is attached to the back of your eye. This is what connects your eye to your brain and the occipital lobe that actually processes your vision. In glaucoma, nerve tissue is slowly destroyed.

The most common type of glaucoma is Primary Open Angle Glaucoma (POAG). Most glaucoma happens in people who are over the age of 40, although there are congenital (at birth) and other types of glaucoma that can occur at any age, but they are more rare. In the early stages of POAG, there are no symptoms. This is why glaucoma is often known as the “silent killer” of vision.

In later stages, your peripheral vision starts to diminish. In severe stages, central vision can also be affected, and total blindness can occur.

Why should I have yearly eye exams?

Glaucoma is one of the reasons it is so very important to see your optometrist every year. During your eye exam, we will always check for signs of glaucoma. Some of the things we take into consideration:

  • Eye pressure – elevated eye pressure can damage the nerve fibers. However, there is a Normo-Tensive Glaucoma form where eye pressure is actually “normal”. As research advances, eye pressure is becoming more of a grey area instead of black-and-white.
  • Optic Nerve health – there are physical signs we can see on the nerve to suggest glaucoma changes.
  • Peripheral vision – we always check everyone’s peripheral vision during a full eye exam.

If anything looks suspicious, there are additional tests we can run to get a closer look at what is going on.

Can glaucoma be prevented?

Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent glaucoma. But it is very manageable it if we catch it early. The most common treatment consists of an eyedrop a day to lower eye pressure. There are also surgical options, if necessary.

But once glaucoma damage is done, it is permanent. You cannot reverse the damage.The best way to prevent damage is to have regular eye exams with your optometrist.


Top image by Flickr user National Eye Institute (location) used under Creative Commons Attribution-Sharelike 4.0 License. Image has been cropped and modified from original. Image rights state commercial use and modifications allowed when image was obtained on 01/02/2018.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.